President Sian Leah Beilock was among three panelists in a U.S. Department of Education discussion last week of how colleges and universities can support students and ensure that all are free to learn in a safe, inclusive environment.
The webinar, Leading Safe, Inclusive, and Nondiscriminatory Learning Environments During the War in the Middle East, was hosted on Thursday by Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona and moderated by Nasser Paydar, assistant secretary for postsecondary education.
President Beilock described recent steps Dartmouth has taken to maintain a safe, inclusive environment on campus, such as hosting panel discussions featuring faculty from the Jewish Studies and Middle Eastern Studies programs to “really interrogate the attacks and issues in the Middle East” and help the campus and community “have dialogue across difference.”
When the conversation turned to supporting students during times of crisis, Beilock said mental health is “at the core of pursuing your potential and being academically excellent.”
“I believe our campuses are responsible for supporting our students in creating that mental health,” she said, highlighting components of Commitment to Care, Dartmouth’s strategic plan to address student mental health and well-being.
In response to a question about how to promote healing, Beilock pointed to a new initiative to promote the development of collaborative dialogue skills on campus.
Dartmouth Dialogues, which will launch this winter, is designed to “embed” that training through programs ranging from additional Middle East dialogues to the Path to the Presidency presidential candidate series to debates around gun control and abortion rights, Beilock said.
The project will bring together faculty, students, and staff to learn how to discuss contentious issues “in a way that is not always easy but allows us to come to better outcomes and solutions, ultimately.”
The other panelists were Darryll Pines, president of the University of Maryland, and Najeeba Syeed, executive director of interfaith at Augsburg University in Minneapolis.
The webinar also covered DOE resources to help K-12 schools and institutions of higher education to respond to the rise in antisemitism, Islamophobia, anti-Arab hate, and other forms of discrimination.